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2015年3月20日 星期五

Dudamel's Mahler Sixth in Hong Kong (杜達美的馬勒六在香港)

Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor has often been described as "tragic".  His wife Alma said it was a symphony which came directly from his heart. But others claim that its sombre intensity reflects the tensions and conflicts in pre-WWI Europe and forbodes its arrival. Whatever the truth may be, we had another chance to hear it again last night at the Cultural Centre, the HKPO under the baton of our former chief conductor De Waart having done so some 3 years ago. (see http://elzorro927.blogspot.hk/2011/02/mahler-no-6-in-hong-kong.html ). This time however, we had Gustavo Dudamel conducting the LA Philharmonic which came out in full force.

The four movements of this extremely long symphony ( one hour twenty minutes without intermission) are:

1. Allegro energico, ma non troppo Heftig, aber markig
2. Andante moderato
3. Scherzo: Wuchtig
4. Finale: Sostenuto--Allegro moderato--Allegro energico

It was not, however, a symphony which was enthusiastically received when it premiered in 1904, the critics at the time complaining that it had too much brass. I can understand why. But the brass is there not simply because Mahler wished to be bombastic. It's there because he really felt something intense inside his heart which could not find expression otherwise, something brewing inside and crying out for an adequate musical form. There is in this music two forces: the forces of tender love, domestic bliss and rustic peace and serenity on the one hand and then the forces of death and destruction raging outside. The two are constantly vying for  dominance. Even in the happiest moment as in the second movement, the forces of destruction, in the form of the irresistible and implacable marching rhythms are never far off. And yet, even when the forces of destruction are playing out themselves (the timpanis, the trumpets etc), it could somehow never quite forget the moments of tenderness ( the woodwind, the horns, the flute, the lyre, the cowbells suggesting lullabies and the innocent play of children) which linger on at the very heart of all the violence to remind one of those happier times. Hence the tension one feels as one listens to the music.

There is little doubt that under Dudamel's baton, the structure of the music is really clear. The sound of the orchestra at fortismisso is truly awesome but it seems to me that the orchestra could at times not be playing in total synchrony, with a tiny lagging behind by some sections, especially by the tuba in pianissimo solo, which often comes in a wee bit late and hesitant. Could it be that it was their first night and it was just a matter of starting jitters or that some of the players still haven't fully recovered from their jet lag? Whatever the reason, whilst listening, I couldn't help myself comparing the LA Phil with the HKPO. I think that in the softer passages, the HKPO under de Waart did slightly better. But over all, the LA Philharmonic acquitted itself quite well and gave a truly impressive and at times explosive performance. They've more than earned the long and enthusiastic applauses.